Library Atmospherics


Library Atmospherics

Library atmospherics describes the microlevel design of library common areas in order to create desired emotional effect on library patrons. More specifically, atmospherics is the manipulation of library environments to create specific emotional effects in library users thus making the library experience enjoyable in order to secure the continued use of the library by their patrons. [Sannwald, William. "Espresso and Ambiance: What Public Libraries Can Learn from Bookstores." "Library Administration & Management" 12:4 (1998):200-11] The study of library atmospherics is a particularly important development for the marketing of our libraries and in influencing how the public views library services, collections, buildings, systems, and their role in society.

Atmospheric variables include sight, sound, scent, and the general feel of both the exterior architecture and interior design of the library. Examples of these atmospheric variables within the library structure include color schemes, acoustics, ventilation, lighting, electronic support, furniture, upholstery, and shelving fixtures. The exterior atmospherics of a library are just as important to the feel of entrance walkways, the landscape, parking lots, and the physical building itself.

The value of atmospheric study can be seen when we reflect on how the design variables influence the patrons experience at the library. Lighting schemes, for example, influence perception, mood and even outward behavior of people. [Scherer, Jeffrey. "Lights and Libraries." "Library Hi Tech" 17:4 (2005) :358-371] Libraries would want to consider this when planning their lighting schemes in order to create an ambiance that is comfortable and inviting to their patrons.

Library atmospherics becomes more complex when we consider that the more varied the patron population, the more complex the atmospheric decisions. [Sannwald, William. "Espresso and Ambiance: What Public Libraries Can Learn from Bookstores." "Library Administration & Management" 12:4 (1998):200-11] Most libraries have mission statements that emphasize service to a varied target audience. In order to utilize the study of atmospherics as a successful marketing tool, library management must therefore consider and incorporate different atmospheric designs for different parts of the building.

Technological atmospheric variables

Modern libraries provide more than just books. The building provides many other services made possible from technological advances. Some of these services include access to computers, fax machines, copiers, ATMs, self-service checkout units. These technological variables create a need for a varied environment within the building in order to maintain a productive atmosphere for all patrons.

Noise criteria (NC) translates a complex acoustical characteristic into a single value. NC level 35 is found to be acceptable for most library functions with NC level 40 in acceptable in the busier areas (NC 20-25 for concert halls). The NC level of a library involves the “background” noise level traditionally heard from building systems including heating, air conditioning, ventilation, fan units or any noise through windows. [Wrightson, Denelle and John M. Wrightson. "Acoustical Considerations in Planning and Design of Library Facilities." "Library Hi Tech" 17:4 (2005) :358-371] With new technological services found in libraries, noises from computer fans, fax machines, copiers must be incorporated into acoustical architecture to maintain optimal NC levels.

The emergence of computers and computer screens has greatly impacted lighting issues within the library atmosphere. As the library becomes more reliant on information contained “on-screen”, it is critical to understand the roles played by uniformity in comfort levels and by efficiency in use of lighting levels. Generally speaking, when people are working on computers their eyes move from the screen, to the background and to adjacent visual attractions. Each time the eye moves, it adjusts to the new lighting level. If the degree of adaptation between visual tasks is too great, eye strain, fatigue and stress result. [Scherer, Jeffrey. "Lights and Libraries." "Library Hi Tech" 17:4 (2005) :358-371] Of equal importance the effects of eye strain is the issue of light fixture reflections on screens. Glare and brightness ratios provide guidelines for lighting schemes within libraries to maximize productivity and minimize eye strain. [Scherer, Jeffrey. "Lights and Libraries." "Library Hi Tech" 17:4 (2005) :358-371] Using these ratios to balance different light sources can be complicated considering library’s various uses, from computer screen use to reading to stack browsing, but also essential to create a productive and safe atmosphere for all patrons.

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Lighting in libraries


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